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PPC blog

4 factors that influence how long your fiber network will last

Posted by David Stockton

When deploying a fiber network, one of the key factors used to calculate ROI is how long it will operate. After all, some copper networks have lasted 140 years in the UK, even if they can’t necessarily meet today’s high-speed broadband needs in their current form.

Optical fiber is inherently more fragile than copper. It is a particular type of glass (fused silica), with a typical tensile strength that is less than half that of copper. However, even though fused silica looks, and can feel, fragile and brittle, if correctly processed, tested and used it has proven to be immensely durable.

To assess the durability of any material it’s useful to consider certain attributes:

  • Initial strength
  • Rate of degradation
  • Any flaws that can weaken it
  • Reagents that can weaken it
  • Its optical lifetime - as the silica must still be able to function satisfactorily 

With this is mind, there are essentially four factors that will affect the longevity of your fiber network: 

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Market trends

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The importance of cleanliness to successful fiber installations

Posted by Shaun Trezise

Deploying fiber in the field is often a dirty job. Installing in new buildings means working on a construction site, with all the mud, dust, and rainwater that this entails. Digging trenches for fiber ducts adds to the mess, and a sudden storm can turn the whole site into a quagmire

It isn’t necessarily much cleaner indoors, with deployments in existing buildings subject to dust and debris from the installation methods needed to create space for fiber, such as drilling into ceilings and walls.

There are three key reasons that all this dirt and contamination is an issue during fiber installations:

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Costs/ROI, Industrial premises

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Successfully creating African fiber to the home networks

Posted by Simon Roberts

Deploying an entirely new fiber network, while meeting tough budget constraints - all within tight timescales - is a challenge for any operator. Add in demanding environmental conditions and the job becomes even harder. 

That’s the scenario that Liquid Telecom faced in Zimbabwe. Liquid is building Africa’s largest single fiber network, currently stretching over 18,000km across Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, and into South Africa.

The award-winning Pan-African fiber network covers the continent’s fastest growing economies, where limited fixed networks previously existed. It delivers the highest quality fiber to the home (FTTH) services, with customers benefiting from speeds in excess of 100Mbps.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Costs/ROI

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8 questions to ask before installing fiber in your building

Posted by Rich Contreras

Across the world, people are increasingly demanding faster broadband - and it is often one of the factors they take into account when choosing where to live. As well as attracting tenants, being able to offer fiber broadband has other benefits for building owners and operators.

A study by the FTTH Council Americas found that access to fiber boosted real estate prices by an average of 3.1 per cent across the United States. These findings build on research that communities with gigabit broadband have a higher per capita GDP.

Consequently, landlords are looking at how they can fiber up their buildings, to attract and retain tenants. But for many this is a new area, so what are the pitfalls they need to avoid and the questions they should ask of any contractor? Based on my experience, here are the eight areas to focus on if you want your project to be successful:

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, MDU

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What’s in a fiber network?

Posted by Dave Stockton

We all regularly talk about Fiber to the Premise (FTTP)/Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks. But, in an era of specialisation, often we only know about the parts that we come into contact with during our working lives - such as the last drop connection, in the case of installers.

So what’s in an FTTP network and how does it work?

In brief, an FTTP network is made up of two main parts:

  • The physical layer.
  • The active optoelectronics. These can be in the central office, the outside network (if any) and at the customer premise.

The ITU-T standard helpfully defines the extent of a fiber network through the G series of recommendations.

It is G.984.2 that is most relevant here, as it covers GPON networks, and it is PONs I’ll address during this post.

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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5 key skills for successful, safe fiber installations

Posted by Rich Contreras

While there are some similarities between copper and fiber last drop deployments there are also some major differences. If you don’t take these into account, or fail to train your teams properly, you could end up with a project that runs over time, over budget or simply cannot be completed.

So what are the key skills you need to ensure your crews have before starting a fiber installation project? From our experience, there are at least five – although I’m sure there are others, so feel free to add more in the comments below.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Industrial premises

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Best practice for installing fiber through micro trenching

Posted by Shaun Trezise

When deploying a fiber network, traditional trenching methods can be expensive and time-consuming - and cause extensive disruption to the local area.

In a city, for example, streets have to be closed while they are dug up - annoying residents, drivers and local authorities. Costs for labour, permits and restoration fees are high, adding to budgets and even making some projects uneconomic.

Consequently, many installers are now switching to micro trenching (also known as slot-cut trenching). This offers substantial benefits over traditional methods as it involves using a diamond circular saw to cut a 0.75 - 1.5 inch wide, 4 inch deep trench. Microduct is installed in the bottom of the trench and it is then backfilled and sealed, speeding up the project.

By comparison, traditional trenches are at least 12 inches wide, in order to fit the size of the smallest excavator buckets, and deployments take more passes to backfill. These factors combined mean that micro trenching is typically 60 per cent cheaper than traditional excavations, as well as being much less disruptive to the urban environment.

Topics: Design and Install, Industrial premises, Fiber innovations

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Next generation fiber architectures in cable and telco networks

Posted by David Stockton

In a previous blog I explored the move from GPON to NGPON2 fiber architectures, as telcos look to deliver gigabit speeds to their users. Things have been moving fast in the area of passive optical network (PON) architectures, so this post provides an update on developments and also covers how cable companies are meeting the challenge of providing greater bandwidth to their subscribers.

Cable architectures – DOCSIS 3 and RFoG

First, let’s look at cable companies and their existing fiber architectures. One of the little secrets of the cable industry is that, despite what the marketing might say, the last drop relies on coaxial cable with a copper conductor, rather than fiber to the building itself. While this is designed to deliver better performance than the copper used within the networks of incumbent telcos, it isn’t the full superfast fiber network that some cable companies might have you believe.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber innovations

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Animals - the number one danger to fiber networks

Posted by Joe Byrne

In a previous post I looked at the six biggest causes of damage to fiber networks. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and additional stories, particularly around the havoc that animals can cause when in close proximity to fiber.

I’d like to particularly thank Steve Wolszczak of Midwest Lightwave Inc. who contributed the stories about cows and gophers. There’s more on Steve at the bottom of the blog.  

So here’s a run down of the six most "dangerous" animals for network planners and installers to look out for:

1. Dead cows

It turns out that dead livestock can cause even more damage to fiber networks than living and breathing ones. The reason? When fiber networks were originally installed through ranching country, deploying the fiber in dry weather could create a scar in the ground. Cattle could easily break a leg in these ruts, forcing ranchers to put them down. While that didn’t endear fiber installers to the farmers, the real issue was that cows tended to be buried on the spot to avoid the spread of disease and discourage predators. This led to ranchers digging a hole with their tractors, taking out the fiber network itself.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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Installing aerial fiber – what are the options?

Posted by Shaun Trezise

In previous blogs we’ve covered the factors involved in choosing between an aerial or buried fiber deployment, as well as the different types of installation methods. This post looks at the deployment itself – what are the options and what is best practice for a successful install?

Essentially, deployment can be either through the stationary or moving reel placing method – but before deciding on which is best for the particular project, follow this checklist:

  • Carry out a full route survey, and make sure that representatives of each organisation potentially affected by the installation are present.
  • Ensure that the right-of-way is free of obstacles, like guy wires and trees.
  • Gain permission from any property owners and relevant authorities if you need to set up any equipment on private land.
  • Make sure you have a properly trained and certified crew. They’ll need to be competent when working at heights, and have the right permits if working near power cables. Also, aim to employ experienced linemen that understand the aerial environment and its particular challenges.
  • Make sure all of the necessary environmental checks and provisions are addressed, including accounting for wind and ice loads, galloping and vibration. 

Topics: Design and Install, Costs/ROI, Industrial premises

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